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The Cost of Free Wi-Fi

The next time you’re in an airport or getting some work done at a coffee shop, resist the urge to connect to the free, public wi-fi. While this amenity may seem like a benefit, it is anything but free. Hackers taking advantage of the convenience-seeking consumer has serious consequences...and it is causing a massive headache for cybersecurity professionals. The second you connect to that free wi-fi, consider that you are making yourself vulnerable to cybercriminals looking to steal private information. Here’s why:


The open connection free wi-fi uses through is often unencrypted and unsecure which leaves your data (i.e. any personal information) open for cybercriminals to take. The reality is that if this network is open to you, it is open to everyone else. This includes hackers who, since you are now connected to an unsecure network, now have entry into any data that passes between you and the websites you use. From login information to purchases, even private conversations, this is now accessible to any hacker on that network. We get it- sometimes you have a last minute email or a deadline you can not miss and the ability to connect is super convenient, even if you know the risk at hand. However, we urge you to look into alternatives that allow you the ease of connection without the risk.


What to Do Instead:


Use Hotspots:

In the settings of your smartphone, there is a personal private hotspot that is perfect for when you need to use your laptop or tablet. This hotspot uses the internet on your phone, a secure device, to power connectivity on your laptop or other devices you need to use. Investing in an unlimited data plan will enable you to use your hotspot without the worry of cost and, in the end, that investment will save you the much greater headache of identity fraud or the loss of your data.


VPN (virtual private network):

If you must use public Wi-Fi, consider a virtual private network. A VPN acts as a private tunnel to encrypt your data that passes through the network.  This creates an encrypted line of communication making it more difficult for hackers to intercept your private data. There are many different types of VPNs depending on your needs.  We suggest researching to find a VPN provider that meets your requirements to secure your connection.


SSL Connections:

If a VPN or your hotspot is not accessible, there is still hope. Secure Socket Layer is standard technology for keeping internet connection secure and private. This technology establishes an encrypted connection between a web server and your browser. SSL also sets a seal to make sure the data inputted remains unchanged and authenticates websites to help avoid imposters. To verify SSL is protecting a page, check the web address of every site you visit for https:// and a closed padlock iconic.

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